San Francisco

Karl Benjamin

Hollis Galleries

Mr. Benjamin exhibits crisp geometric abstractions in oil, exploring a variety of directions. In a series of paintings designated only by the Roman numeral VII, a rectilinear lattice or grid of black lines is superimposed, as it were, on a mosaic of color squares, the intersections of which are noncongruent with those of the lattice. The color tonalities are cool and aseptic. This series is reminiscent sometimes of Mondrian and sometimes of the geometricism of early exponents of Bauhaus theory. An isolated painting simply designated as “7” reduces to its essentials a formula of the early Cubists later elaborated by Gleizes: a compositional axis implying tangentially overlapping rectangles bordered with violin-like curves and S-scroll motifs. Another direction is essayed in the “PS” series which for want of a better designation one might term the “falling matchsticks pattern” in which narrow strips of color seem to be falling diagonally across the canvas at random tangents to one another. Most of the methods expounded in Mr. Benjamin’s paintings relate rather more to historic methods of color-geometricism than to the contemporary Hard-Edge approach. This exhibition includes, almost as if by afterthought, a few excursions into this area. It is the monolithism of Hard-Edge, its simple structures, obvious symmetries and color contrasts which appeal to Benjamin. Altogether this is a rewarding exhibition, revealing insightful thought and craft on the part of an artist who has devoted a considerable part of his painting career to a study of the formal dynamics of geometric nonobjective painting from a variety of approaches.

Palmer D. French